Late nights, early mornings, even less sleep than usual – yes it’s lambing time again! For the past few weeks we’ve been busy lambing our flock of sheep but now we are nearing the end and have only five pregnant ewes left in the barn.
We keep three different breeds of sheep – Zwartbles (brown / black fleece, white blaze on face) Texels (white fleece, thick set muscular body, wide face) and Mules (white fleece, a cross between a Bluefaced Leicester ram and a Swaledale ewe.) Each breed has it’s own unique characteristics but the Zwartbles, which were originally a gift from Grandad Tom, have a special place in my heart.
Last autumn, Saxon and Winston (our two rams) were put with the ewes for mating. As a result, on 23rd February the first lambs were born and lambing ’16 commenced. One of our ewes had quadruplets, which was a first for us, and there have been quite a few sets of triplets. This isn’t a good thing since a ewe has only two teats! The smallest of the lambs usually has to be taken off the mother and bottle fed with lamb milk replacement. However, generally lambing this year has gone well and now that the weather is improving, and the rain-soaked fields are drying out, we can look forward to the warmer weather of spring.
Our sheep mostly lamb indoors. After the lambs are born we keep them with their mothers in individual pens in the lambing barn for a few days. Once we know that they are feeding off their mothers, and have no health problems, the ewes and lambs are numbered (for easy identification) and put into a larger pen with a few more sheep and lambs. This allows the lambs to be able to find their mothers in a group. Ewes identify their own lambs by smell and can recognise their lambs’ bleats, however this becomes more difficult when they are in a larger group. We need to know that they can find each other when let out into the field with the rest of the flock.
The sheer joy and exuberance of young lambs playing in the fields really embodies the spirit of springtime. Watching the lambs and ewes in the fields is one of my favourite parts of the farming year. If you are staying with us at Humblescough Farm this Easter, take some time to lean over the gate and watch the lambs in the Front Field!